60,852 families are currently homeless in England. But, we don’t know much about their lives, and what could be causing them to be unable to find a safe, stable, affordable home.
With limited information, stereotypes abound, and solutions to homelessness seem intractable and unclear.
But we have found an alternative government dataset that gives more insight on homeless families. Today, Shelter’s social housing commission are publishing brand new analysis of government benefit data, that reveals the proportion of homeless families in temporary accommodation, who are also in paid work.
Incredibly, Shelter’s analysis shows that over half (55%) of families living in temporary accommodation are working. This represents over 33,000 families who were holding down a job, despite having nowhere stable to live.
We can also see that this proportion has increased over recent years – from 44% in 2013 to 55% in 2017. This represents a huge increase in the overall number of homeless working families: from 19,250 in 2013 to today’s total of 33,286, (an increase of 73%).
The stark increase in the number of working homeless families far outstrips the concurrent growth in the number of families in temporary accommodation (73% compared to 38%). This suggests that much of the recent growth in homelessness could have come from an increase in working families finding themselves homeless.
The solution to homelessness isn’t simple. But this new data further highlights how attempting to move more people into work would not be sufficient to address this issue. A combination of high private rents, unstable tenancies, the on-going freeze on local housing allowance and a chronic lack of social homes are all contributing to the trends we are seeing.
With so many families in paid employment, but unable to access a home, it’s clear that our current housing market, and benefit system do not adequately support hard-working families. In order to end homelessness, we must address the lack of stable, affordable homes across the country. And fix our broken housing benefit system so that support matches local rents.
To do this, the government needs to build thousands more social homes that are truly affordable for families on low and average incomes. Our commission on social housing will make bold recommendations on the role social housing needs to play in easing the housing crisis. Find out more about their work here.